Running effective meetings can be tough. Getting everyone on the same page, delivering the information you need to deliver, soliciting the feedback that you need from your team, and leaving with a plan of action might seem easy on paper, but making it happen in real life is much more difficult.

The key to running an effective meeting lies in your preparation. Taking your time to plan the meeting and putting together a rough outline of what will be discussed and when can help you to stay on track and ensure that you are not forgetting anything in the process.

American businesses hold nearly 11 million meetings per day. The average meeting length is 31 to 60 minutes. When a meeting is unproductive, that represents a lot of wasted time. Particularly when the meeting involves a large group of people. A meeting with 10 people that lasts an hour is 10 hours of productivity and labor wasted. Knowing when a meeting is worth having is half the battle, but ensuring that when you do meet that you are productive is just as important.

In this article, we’ll lay out some simple, common sense tips that any meeting leader can follow to facilitate a more productive meeting for teams in any department. While not every meeting will go perfectly, following the tips in this article for each meeting that you lead will help you to create an environment where people feel open to share critical information, take the meeting seriously, and don’t see it as a waste of time.

Set a Goal for the Meeting

What is your reason for getting together? Is there a specific topic that you would like to discuss? If there isn’t, maybe you shouldn’t have the meeting at all. Many meetings would be better handled through email, rather than asking everyone to take large portions out of their day to get together a discuss a topic.

Pinpoint a goal before you get into the meeting. Have a solid understanding of what the broad topics will be, specific topics you would like to discuss, and what order those discussions will happen in. Your broader goal may be finding a solution to a specific problem, giving your team the ability to provide feedback on a certain phase of the project, or coming to an important internal decision. Always have a goal laid out before the meeting starts. When it makes sense, let the team know what that goal is.

Invite the Most Relevant Stakeholders

Meetings don’t have to be huge. In fact, most meetings should be smaller than we are. Everyone has been required to attend a meeting that wasn’t truly relevant to them and could have been easily handled with a short email. Smaller meetings have been shown to yield more effective meetings and improve meeting productivity.

Only invite the most relevant stakeholders to each meeting. This keeps the meeting small and keeps conversation fluent. Those stakeholders can then pass information on to the rest of the team who may be interested but are less of a relevant stakeholder for your specific topic.

Prepare an Agenda and Schedule

Go into the meeting knowing where you want the meeting to go. Every meeting should have a (rough) agenda and schedule made for the meeting. Of course, meetings sometimes take their own shape. You shouldn’t be rigid. Be willing to go with the flow within the meeting itself. But, an agenda and schedule helps to keep things on track and increases meeting productivity and satisfaction among your group. Getting off track and not focusing on what you need to is where most meetings go wrong.

Encourage Team Input Throughout

If you want your team members to feel included in meetings, you have to give them a chance to provide feedback and give their opinions. When your meetings include too many people or are too rigidly scheduled, it can kind of kill the purpose of the whole meeting. Build time for feedback and sharing directly into your meeting times.

By building that time directly into your schedule, you ensure that feedback is never overlooked. Additionally, you ensure that you are giving people plenty of time to extrapolate on their points and dive a bit deeper than they would if they interrupted the meeting to ask a question or to share a point.

Document and Share the Meeting

Ideally, you want every member of your meeting to leave with detailed notes that help them to understand the full context of what was talked about once the meeting is over. But this isn’t an ideal world. Some will take better notes than others. Some will pay more attention during the meeting. Some will be more involved.

Designate one person each meeting to take notes that you can then share with the rest of the team once the meeting is over. Ensuring that everyone has a good set of notes that they can turn to and rely on after the meeting has ended helps to drive home key points and facilitate a productive meeting that drives the results you want.

Close the Meeting with a Plan for Moving Forward

Never leave the meeting without an action plan. Make sure that every person understands what their job is once the meeting is over. If that means assigning specific tasks to each person then so be it. If that means giving everyone a very general goal, that is alright too.

However, you need to make sure that the meeting yields a plan for success. Having a simple and straightforward plan for each member of your meeting ensures that no one is left guessing once the meeting comes to an end.

Meeting Productivity a Foundation for Success

Collaboration is a foundation for success in fast-growing companies. Without collaboration, it is difficult to get everyone moving in the same direction. A cornerstone of effective collaboration is effective meetings. Knowing how you want to handle the meeting, what outcomes you are hoping for, and who the most relevant stakeholders are for each meeting is critical for more general success in collaboration. Follow the tips in this article to position your team for success in meetings and increase meeting productivity.